Singing siblings

The Unthanks couldn’t have chosen a more fitting venue for the first night of their current tour than St James’s Church, Piccadilly; just as it’s all too easy for passers-by, eyes glued to the bright lights, to overlook this relic of the 17th century, one could be forgiven for missing The Unthanks’ distinctive breed of

The joy of Spotify

Like a few who have ploughed through the Steve Jobs biography, I am now heartily tired of early adopters, those strange men who are always at the front of the queue at the Apple shop when some dismal new gewgaw is coming out. I myself am a classic late adopter, discovering the new and exciting

Arts feature

Consumed by Dickens

If you don’t like Simon Callow, you probably don’t like the theatre either. He is as theatrical as a box of wigs. Who else would bark ‘come!’ when someone knocks on his dressing-room door? There he is with a glass of wine, a boom of good cheer, having peeled off his side whiskers after his


Knock-off news

The Onion is a comic giveaway American newspaper that satirises the awfulness of most American newspapers. ‘Doofus Chilean miner stuck down there again’ is one of their recent headlines, along with ‘Parents honor dead son by keeping up his awful blog’. Now we in Britain can watch the television version, Onion News Network (Sky Arts

Conjuring with morality

You can see why Harold Bloom, in his marvellous book Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, should have called Measure for Measure one of Shakespeare’s most ‘rancid’ plays. But it’s also one that he greatly admired, though it takes a good production like Roxana Silbert’s new one at Stratford to show you just why. Bloom’s

Geometry lesson

It’s the usual old muddle. You take a Shakespeare classic and you time-travel it to an alien century, usually the present one, which has no connection with its historic setting. The plan, we’re always told, is to generate that supremely irrelevant attribute, ‘relevance’. Director Dominic Cooke has fast-forwarded The Comedy of Errors to modern London


Highs and lows

This year’s Christmas offering at the Royal Opera is yet a further revival of Richard Eyre’s production of La Traviata, which began the season and is being revived again early in 2012. The main reason I went again to an opera for which I usually feel distaste was to see and hear Simon Keenlyside in


Pushing the boundaries | 10 December 2011

When I was at school, I remember the art teacher returning incensed from a trip to London during which he’d taken a group of seniors to the Tate Gallery. The particular object of his ire was what he described as ‘a pile of blankets’ by Barry Flanagan. He could not accept that this was a


For your eyes only

Puss in Boots was the surprise hit character — the standout sidekick — of the second Shrek movie, and went on to tickle us in Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After. Sleek, foolish, vain and blessed with the all-butter voice of Antonio Banderas, he was the roving ginger tom whom audiences wished to take


Wild wastes of forgetfulness

Too much dark, not enough light, often leads us inwards, into those dark regions of the mind where memory resides. Between the Ears (Radio 3, Saturday evening) echoed the mood of the month by taking us on a journey back into that hinterland of darkness where names begin to disappear, places can no longer be